In CrossFit we talk about the spectrum health as going from “Sick” to “Well” to “Fit”. Whether you love or hate CrossFit in particular, the idea of moving from Sickness through Wellness, and into Fitness will be helpful to you in your fitness journey. Different people fall at different places on on the Sick to Fit spectrum, but if you look at some of my other articles you’ll see I was pretty deeply into “Sick” territory when I started. Since then I’ve progressed. I’d now rate my self as “Well”, but it hasn’t been easy.
Once you’ve been on your fitness journey for a while, some of the ways you measure success can become slower to materialize. When that happens it is critical to stick to it, continue to fight, and keep healing.
I began this journey, just over two years ago with a seemingly simple goal. I wanted to be “Fit”. I didn’t verbalize it that way at the time, but that’s what I really wanted. Since then I’ve tried different diets, different exercise paradigms, different supplements, and taken the advice of countless other people about how to “lose weight”. All of those things worked to varying degrees. All of them. I made progress. I lost weight, I lost fat, I gained muscle, and I have enhanced my athletic performance. Doing so has neither been easy, nor without emotional turmoil.
The simple fact is that every successful fitness strategy I have ever used boils down one simple concept: intention. Do it on purpose. Eat intentionally, exercise intentionally, don’t follow a prescription, follow an idea. I mention this in an article titled “Sickness, Wellness, Fitness, and Resiliency.” because intention fosters resiliency, and resiliency drives success.
My scale hasn’t moved in months. I hover between 258 and 268, and have done so since about March of 2019. This isn’t the first time its happened either. My body is a pain in the neck to live with. I lose 20-30 pounds over the course of 1-3 months then I stagnate for 6-9 months (or longer). I really can’t fully explain why this happens, but my guess is that I build a critical mass of lean muscle while losing fat, then I lose fat rapidly until I reach equilibrium. Then I keep trucking along until critical mass is reached again. This is frustrating, but I just keep going. I trust the process.
This system of rapid achievement followed by stagnation crushes me emotionally. Rather, it used to crush me until I figured out something: “The Scale is not an effective way to measure fitness.”. It simply isn’t. Our bodies retain water dependent on a HUGE number of factors, water is heavy, muscle weighs more than fat, and when we exercise frequently we simple need more water to function. All of these factors can lead to perceived stagnation even when we are actually progressing. Here is a scale picture of 5 pounds of fat, and 5 pounds of muscle. Note: If you are losing fat and gaining muscle you could LOOK better, but weigh more.
All of this is why we need to follow a different path for quantification of our physical fitness once we’ve moved from “Sick” to “Well”. Certainly acknowledge the scale: it’s there, it’s quick, and it feels good when it moves in the right direction, but don’t let it bother you if it doesn’t for a while. Trust that you are doing the right thing, and that results will come.
Pay attention to physical performance such as: how much more can you now, how quickly can you complete a workout, what is your run time, and what exercise (like pull-ups) could you not do before that you can do now. Additionally, focus on qualitative measures such as how you feel, what you see when you look in the mirror, what is your mood generally, how tired are you, and how quickly do you recover from exercise. One of the things I’ve done since I began is take a lot of pictures of myself. That way when I look at the picture, and at the mirror I can see progress.
If you aren’t careful, the emotional swings you experience can completely derail your fitness goals. I do this because one day I discovered I was very sick, and made the decision to change that fact. My state of health at that point, was a result of years of improper nutrition, inactivity, and a less than ideal result in the genetic lottery. It also involved years of excessive use of both alcohol and tobacco. These are all things that can muddle our emotions, and certainly muddled mine. In fact, an argument could be made that my emotions and how I dealt with them are what got me into this mess to begin with.
Changing these destructive patterns and behaviors was my first goal when I decided to be fit. Part of that work was focusing on mindfulness so I could deal with my stress in a more healthy manner. Working on mindfulness also helped me build resiliency. The simple fact is that the sea of life is turbulent. Oftentimes the waves we experience come along right when we are deciding to make positive changes. If we try to fight the waves we may drown, but by making intentional, mindful decisions about consumption and activity, we can typically ride the waves in to the shore.
There is a huge amount of research on mindfulness, meditation, and learning to ride the waves of life out there. This is not an article on those things, but the book “Wherever you go, There You Are: Mindfulness and Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn was very helpful. For me, the purpose of working on mindfulness has been to become more emotionally resilient. This allows me to survive stagnation in my fitness journey as well as the multitude of other annoyances that life throws my way.
At the end of the day, learn to trust your process. Realize that true movement on the sick to fit meter is not a single, or even a few GAINT changes. Rather movement toward fitness comes by making many, many small decisions about how to live your life. This article is certainly more “cerebral” than most of what I end up writing here, but it is incredibly important to pay attention to your mental and emotional health in addition to your physical health. We are all connected, complex systems, and need to be aware of the whole picture in order to succeed.
Thanks for stopping by.
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